EU Directive targets spur update in technical guidance

The landfill management industry and the Government are focusing on the major shift in operational practice and standards that will result from the implementation of the EU Landfill Directive. In this special feature LAWE reviews action to meet the UK's obligations and reaction from industry, with reports of developments on site and in landfill products.

The UK has just two years from July 1999 to put in place the regulations and

guidance for the Directive, which will have a fundamental effect on the way

this country develops and manages our landfill sites in the future.

Important changes introduced by the Directive include:

  • the end of co-disposal as practised in the UK ­ hazardous and

    non-hazardous wastes will no longer be disposed of in the same site, and

    separate classes of landfill for each waste type will be introduced

  • a number of wastes which currently go to landfill, such as tyres, liquids

    and certain hazardous wastes, will be banned altogether

  • the requirement for pre-treatment of wastes prior to landfill
  • progressive reduction in the amount of biodegradable waste which can be


These will apply to new sites and applications for substantial changes in

the first instance, but the Directive quotes provisions will also be

extended to all existing sites in time.

Whilst the legislative framework for implementing the Directive will be

developed by the DETR, the Environment Agency will have a primary

responsibility for the practical implementation of the new regulations. At

present, both regulators and landfill practitioners refer to a range of

technical guidance documents on landfill development, operation and

licensing, the content of which reflects the present UK Waste Management

Licensing regime. Clearly these documents will require revision or updating

to meet the new standards imposed by the Directive ­

a major undertaking.

The current project, on which Enviros Aspinwall is assisting the Agency,

concentrates on the engineering aspects of landfills for the protection of

soil and water, with specific reference to those parts of Annex 1 of the

Landfill Directive describing water control and leachate management, lining

and capping, stability and barriers.

Pat Corker, Project Manager for Enviros Aspinwall, outlined the main aspects

of the project to LAWE.

The authoritative technical guidance document on these topics is currently

Waste Management Paper 26B, Landfill Design, Construction and Operational

Practice, which was published by the DoE in 1995. The project has therefore

started with a comprehensive review of this and related technical guidance

to identify omissions, conflicts and requirements for updating, before

designing a structure for new and amended guidance on the engineering of


The findings of the preliminary review is encouraging for UK practice,

indicating that much of the generic technical guidance in Waste Management

Paper 26B will remain valid under the Landfill Directive. This will not come

as a surprise to many UK regulators and practitioners, who are already

conscious of the stringent technical requirements for new landfills in the


Revised guidance

However, the current guidance will need to be restructured to reflect more

closely the Landfill Directive philosophy, terminology and mandatory

requirements. In particular, the revised guidance will have to address the

new landfill classifications into inert, non-hazardous and hazardous sites

and provide advice on interpreting the risk assessment approach in the UK,

as compared with the default standards in the Directive for lining and

capping landfills. Changes in the nature and composition of the wastes going

to landfill should not fundamentally affect the way we approach the process,

though are likely to affect the chosen design.

There is also a need to reconcile sustainable development objectives with

apparent conflicts in some of the Directive’s requirements, for example, the

potential to over-engineer sites or incur environmental burdens through

transport of waste and development materials.

The next stage is to develop appropriate technical guidance, starting with a

new framework document setting out the context and Landfill Directive

principles with respect to waste types, landfill classification and risk

assessment. It is proposed to restructure and update detailed guidance on

engineering topics from Waste Management Paper 26B to take account of

contemporary best practice. Like Waste Management Paper 26B, the guidance

will be aimed at practitioners and operators in the waste management

industry, together with all those in planning and waste regulation who play

a part in pollution control and the regulation of landfill sites.

The findings will be used to develop appropriate new guidance for landfill

engineering and consolidate technical advice to ensure continuing high

standards of landfill practice in the UK, in accordance with EU


Guidance on landfill gas

In a separate initiative, the Environment Agency is updating technical

guidance for the management of landfill gases in England and Wales. The

Agency has appointed a task force to draw on a decade of progressive

research in landfill gas management and bring existing guidance up-to-date

with the latest technical developments and environmental improvements.

When completed, the information will update the current technical guidance

provided by Waste Management Paper 27: Landfill Gas (second edition, 1991)

and will be an important source of reference for the Agency, the waste

management industry, planners and developers.

Agency Project Manager, Mark Maleham, said: “We aim to take a risk-based

approach to the guidance, taking account of the considerable recent

developments in the understanding of landfill gas management.”

The task force is led by Dr Bob Gregory of Land Quality Management Ltd,

based at Nottingham University. Other members include Entec Ltd, Berwick

Manley Associates Ltd, Knox Associates Ltd and Card Geotechnics.

The project is funded by the Agency’s Waste Regulation and Management

Research and Development Programme.

Response on limiting landfill

In its response to the Government’s consultation paper on limiting landfill

to meet the EC Landfill Directive’s targets for the landfill of

biodegradable municipal waste, the Institute of Wastes Management (IWM)

supports options which offer a “front of pipe” solution to achieving


IWM considers that this can only be achieved through co-operation between

the public collection authorities, disposal authorities and the operator. A

fundamental part of that process, in the institute’s view, is to minimise

the amount of waste arising. A ban on landfill, such as offered in Options 1

and 2, and to some extent the restrictions in other options, will only

provide part of the solution.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie